5 Ways Love Improves Health
For many years, research has shown that experiencing feelings of love, empathy and kindness improves health in many ways. Much of this is due to the countless chemical reactions that occur within the body during these moments that improve almost every biological function. Below are just five of many ways love is keeping you healthy. Be sure to prescribe some for yourself every day!
1. Improves Self-Esteem
Research regularly shows that feeling loved greatly enhances our self-image and how we value ourselves. With greater self-worth, we naturally engage in behaviors of all kinds that support us and enhance our health like adopting a better diet, exercising, participating more in activities we love, and sharing our love more freely with others.
2. Reduces Stress
Falling in love floods the brain with dopamine, which heightens focus, energy, and optimism, all of which counteract the stress hormone, cortisol. An increase in dopamine triggers an increase in testosterone and sex drive. Sex with someone you love has a lot of benefits like lowering blood pressure, better sleep, and healthier skin. Research recently showed that couples in committed relationships for 24 months or longer had the most stable cortisol levels and less stress. Just kissing or holding hands with someone you love releases oxytocin into the bloodstream which inhibits cortisol and strengthens feelings of attachment.
3. Decreases Inflammation, Provides Pain Relief
Feelings of love and inclusion (as opposed to loneliness and rejection) suppress the production of inflammatory cytokines in the body. One study of romantic partners showed that when one partner was kind and validating to the other who had their hand submerged in extremely cold water, the pain experienced was significantly reduced.
4. Better Sleep
A recent study of women found that those in stable relationships fell asleep faster and awoke less frequently than single women or those in relationships that changed over time. The body’s rebuilding and cleansing processes are at their peak during the night, so better sleep is crucial to good health.
5. Faster Healing, Increased Immunity
Love from anyone, not just a romantic partner, can have a big impact on health. One of the most important relationships that affect health is the one we have with our doctors. Kindness, compassion, and empathy from a physician have been repeatedly shown to positively affect a patient’s response to treatment. Study subjects who were intentionally exposed to the common cold virus and who said the doctor that treated them was very kind did not experience the full-blown version of the cold, reported less severe symptoms, and got better faster than patients who’d seen a stoic or impersonal physician. In contrast, research shows patients who tolerate insensitive doctors experience lower immune function and slower wound healing capabilities.